How to Find the Aging-in-Place New Home That Fits You and Your Family

An older man chops veggies on a large white kitchen island in his contemporary kitchen with flat-front cabinets.

If you are searching for a home where you can age in place, there are a few things you should consider.

From empty-nesters wanting to downsize to retirees craving a new adventure in a warmer climate, older home buyers have plenty of reasons for shopping for a new home.

But they also may have more specialized concerns or requirements when searching for the right home.

As our population ages (according to the U.S. Census Board, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be age 65 or older by 2029), figuring out ways for people to age gracefully in one’s home, or age in place, is becoming more important and necessary.

But aging in place doesn’t mean that older buyers have to settle for less.

“You don’t have to give up the things you love,” says Realtor Nancy Doyne of New Jersey-based Weichert Realtors. “Put together a list of what is important to you in a home.”

Doyne, who holds a Seniors Real Estate Specialist designation, works closely with older buyers to guide them through the process of determining their values and needs.

“Older buyers really need to understand what their family dynamics will be over the next 20 years or so,” she says.

Do you still have kids at home or have grandchildren who visit? Do you have older relatives, such as a parent or sibling or aunt/uncle, who will be living with you or visiting often? What do you want your yearly lifestyle to be like? As people age, health and mobility concerns tend to start cropping up, so it’s important to keep those needs in mind when buying an aging-in-place home.

Figuring out ways for people to age gracefully in one’s home, or age in place, is becoming more important and necessary. ... An aging in place home doesn’t mean that older buyers have to settle for less.Depending on your needs, renovating an existing home may be the right option, but if you have an extensive wish list or just want to start from scratch in a new location, new construction homes allow you to build in all of the features that will allow you to age in place comfortably. Building new can also be more cost effective in the long run, from incorporating architectural changes to greater energy efficiency.

Builders like PulteGroup, with its Del Webb and Pulte Homes Active Adult communities, or Maryland-based Williamsburg Homes are among those that have responded to the needs of older buyers.

“At Del Webb, the overall environment is tailored toward the 55-plus demographic,” says Sarah Garlick, communications specialist at PulteGroup. “The amenities and activities are all age appropriate and many residents enjoy having more in common with their neighbors.”

Through its “Explore Del Webb” program, Del Webb offers prospective buyers the opportunity to stay at one of their properties for a day or two, meet with residents and partake of the community amenities, to see if it’s the right fit.

Williamsburg Homes’ active adult communities, like Simpson Mill include standard features geared for older buyers, as well as plenty of options to accommodate specific needs.

“We ask what kind of community lifestyle you are looking for,” says Damon Bradley, sales manager at Williamsburg Homes. “And then we drill down further and look at amenities, and from there, we look at exterior and interior features.”

There’s plenty to think about, particularly where the floor plan is concerned — and this goes back to Doyne’s “wish list.” Here are some factors to consider:

• Do you or will you need zero entry (no steps) to your home?
• Do you or will you need a one-story home?
• Do you want a first-floor owner’s suite or a first-floor in-law suite?
• Do you have mobility issues that need to be accommodated (wider doors and hallways, lower countertops, grab bars in the shower or bathtub, lever door handles, etc.)?
• Do you want an open-concept home?
• Do you want space for entertaining or outdoor living?
• Do you need a flex room (or two) for hobbies or for the grandkids’ play room?

There are plenty of other questions to consider, but that’s where sitting down with your real estate agent and the builder’s representative can help. But you can go ahead and start writing that wish list.

Says Bradley, “Think about what is of the greatest value to you and your lifestyle.”

Judy L. Marchman is a freelance writer and editor, with 20 years of magazine and book publishing experience. She covers a variety of subjects, including home-related topics. Her work has appeared in Kentucky Monthly, Keeneland Magazine and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine, among other publications.

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